The Jerusalem Post emphasized U.S. and Israeli skepticism over Arafat's crackdown on terrorism. An unnamed Israeli defense official told the paper that the Palestinian Authority was only arresting small-fry for the benefit of the media: "They were told to come in to register and would be released in a few days, he said. 'They were smiling for the cameras. I don't know many people smiling when they are arrested,' he said." Still, Israeli officials told the Post that there were some encouraging signs of serious action by Arafat on the ground, although not enough. A Post editorial also viewed the emergency visit to Jerusalem by Egypt's foreign minister as an encouraging sign that Cairo was now willing to put pressure on Arafat to avert a crisis. That, the editors believed, vindicates Ariel Sharon's tough line.
But the Egyptian media had a different view. The Egyptian government daily Al Ahram's editor slammed Israel's attacks on Arafat's administration even as it was demanding that he arrest terror suspects. He strongly condemned the suicide bombings in Israel both in moral terms and as a calculated attempt to undermine the peace process, but warned that Sharon's actions in the last week, and over the last year, diminish prospects for ending terrorism. "What can Arafat do when he cannot even move within Palestinian territories without a permit from Israeli officials. What can Arafat do when he cannot fully exert his control over the disparate parts of Palestinian territory, when occupying forces are targeting PA security personnel and installations, and when every measure is being taken to undermine his authority?"
Turkey may be Israel's closest ally in the region, but its Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit warned that Sharon wants a war. Ankara's Turkish Daily News reports that Sharon told Ecevit in a phone conversation this week that the Israelis want to "be rid of" Yasser Arafat. The paper quotes Ecevit thus: "During my telephone conversation the other day with Sharon, it became very clear that Israel was inclined towards war. In fact Mr. Sharon openly expressed their desire to be rid of Mr. Arafat." Turkey found Sharon's remarks "dangerous and worrisome," and warned that removing Arafat would exacerbate the problem. Ecevit reiterated Turkey's willingness to mediate and called Sharon's insistence on a cease-fire a "rational demand" and urged Arafat to act against terrorist groups. But "the measures that Israel has taken so far have been shown to be ineffective and have dragged Israel and the Palestinians toward a conflict."
Britain's Daily Telegraph says Israeli leaders no longer see fear of Hamas as a reason to prop up Arafat. "People close to Mr. Sharon insist that there is no plan to kill or expel Mr. Arafat. The plan is to let him 'twist slowly in the wind,' reduced to his pre-1993 status when he was a guerrilla leader, not the president of a state in the making. The government wants to deprive him of international standing and red carpets and limousines. The hope is that the Palestinians will eventually follow the lead of the Serbs, who toppled their president, Slobodan Milosevic, after years of sanctions, and pension off 71-year-old Mr. Arafat."
But across London, the Guardian urged the U.S. to make an intervention, warning that Israeli air strikes are "clearly counter-productive, extending the war in the territories and making a political solution ever more difficult." The paper warns that images of Palestinians being bombed will be understood throughout the Arab world "as the direct consequence of America's complicity with Israel in denying Palestinians their national rights… In the world after September 11, Afghanistan is the qualified success that many thought would be far more elusive than it has proved to be, while Israel and the territories are the unqualified disaster that some believed we would be able to avoid. Whatever the earlier arguments about priorities, it has surely become undeniable that the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians ought now to be at the very top of the agenda."
The British paper's perception that the Bush administration has bought the Sharon line is echoed by the left of center Israeli daily Haaretz. "After months of sitting on the fence, the Bush administration has chosen sides," a commentator writes. "No longer is it trying to play the impartial mediator, a la former president Bill Clinton. Senior Israeli security officials could hardly believe the series of public appearances this week by people from the White House and the State Department. For a moment there, President George W. Bush sounded like he was outflanking Prime Minister Ariel Sharon on the right." The paper argues that Arafat has nowhere to move acting against Hamas now will paint him as a collaborator in the eyes of Palestinians, who no longer believes that the Israeli occupation will be ended through dialogue. So, "Israel and the Palestinians can apparently expect more mutual bloodletting, for which, at present, there is no discernible way out… The chances of the political track getting off the ground again seem just as good as the chances of being able to take off from the airport in Rafiah this week." (The airport's runway was destroyed by Israeli bulldozers.)